Monday, March 30, 2015

Republicans fight new White House initiative

"Germie," the loveable new children's toy from Koch Industries

From the Washington Post:
The White House announced an aggressive plan Friday to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a mounting problem that causes an estimated 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths every year in the United States.

In related news, Republican Party leaders have stopped washing their hands. If Barack Obama is against germs, they're now strongly pro-germ.

GOP congressmen have proposed a new law for the protection and proliferation of antibiotic-resistant germs, and as the first stage of that, they've eliminated soap in congressional washrooms and turned off water to the sinks. And 47 Republican senators have just sent a letter to Pigpen, attempting to sabotage America's work in getting him to clean up.

In a press conference, Republican leaders accused the White House of perpetrating a hoax on the American people. "Germ theory is just a theory, not a fact," said one. "There's not one word about germs in the Bible. And why would God have made so many of them, if they were bad? Clearly, this is just a global conspiracy of medical scientists who don't recognize American exceptionalism."

Since the announcement, Fox News has been talking nonstop about Germgate, openly wondering why the "liberal media" have bought into all this germ nonsense. Meanwhile, Republicans in the House of Representatives are nearing all-out battle, as every committee chairman wants his committee to take point on this critical issue.

Republican politicians urged patriotic Americans to send them all the dirty money they could, promising to hide it away from the antibiotic properties of sunlight and fresh air.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Fox News is special, because Fox News says so

Nothing makes me happier than to watch Jon Stewart give Fox 'News' everything they deserve. Partly, that's because they're so evil. Hmm,... no, that's pretty much the whole reason, I guess.

Fox gives journalism a bad name. They're a bad influence on the whole profession, showing how you can make lots and lots of money being everything a 'news network' should not be. And I majored in journalism in college, so I guess this really hits home for me.

And they're so smug about it. Lying doesn't embarrass them. They're just proud of how much money they make that way.

Do you ever wonder about scam artists, how people can live with themselves after taking money from particularly ignorant, lonely, and gullible old people? Fox 'News' demonstrates the mindset that scammers must have, don't you think?

They're not embarrassed, they're self-congratulatory. They're proud that they can fool the gullible, not ashamed of it. They don't feel bad about what they do, they feel superior, especially since money is the measure of everything for them. What matters is that you're rich, not how you got that way.

And they're entirely faith-based, so they see the world exactly as they want to see it. Just as lying for Jesus is justified, so is lying for the Republican Party. The end justifies the means, don't you know? Besides, it's not really lying. It's standing up for a deeper truth, the 'Truth' that only they can see,... since it only exists inside their fantasies.

When you're faith-based, your faith has to be real. Thus, everything which supports that faith is justified. And anything which doesn't must be denied, opposed, or rationalized away. Obviously, how you do it doesn't matter, as long as it works. That's because your faith can't be wrong.

And when you're making lots and lots of money from it,... well, clearly, the marketplace is demonstrating that you're right, huh?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Right-wing Christian rape and murder fantasies

Please note: This is very disgusting stuff. Don't read further if you're squeamish.

From TPM:
"Duck Dynasty" star and conservative icon Phil Robertson told a gruesome, vivid story on Friday about the hypothetical rape and murder of a family to illustrate the perils of atheism, according to audio surfaced by Right Wing Watch.

The website reported that Robertson made the remarks during a speech at a Florida prayer breakfast that was later broadcast by the conservative radio program TruNews.

From the Right Wing Watch report on Robertson's speech:
“I’ll make a bet with you,” Robertson said. “Two guys break into an atheist’s home. He has a little atheist wife and two little atheist daughters. Two guys break into his home and tie him up in a chair and gag him. And then they take his two daughters in front of him and rape both of them and then shoot them and they take his wife and then decapitate her head off in front of him. And then they can look at him and say, ‘Isn’t it great that I don’t have to worry about being judged? Isn’t it great that there’s nothing wrong with this? There’s no right or wrong, now is it dude?’” Robertson kept going: “Then you take a sharp knife and take his manhood and hold it in front of him and say, ‘Wouldn’t it be something if this [sic] was something wrong with this? But you’re the one who says there is no God, there’s no right, there’s no wrong, so we’re just having fun. We’re sick in the head, have a nice day.’”

“If it happened to them,” Robertson continued, “they probably would say, ‘something about this just ain’t right.”

Yes, something about this "just ain't right," but Robertson doesn't seem to realize that it's him.

No atheist says that there's no right or wrong. How could Robertson even imagine such a thing? No atheist would say that there's nothing wrong with that scenario. Indeed, it's the Christian who seems to enjoy fantasizing about horrendous violence. What does that tell you?

Besides, Robertson's little story, as sick as it is, doesn't demonstrate that there's a magical judge somewhere in the sky who'll punish such crimes. It only demonstrates that Robertson, and people like him, really, really want to believe that.

Christians imagine an ultimate judge, because they want to think that people they don't like will be punished, eventually, whatever happens to them in this world. And they want to think that deserving people - themselves, of course, and people like them - will be rewarded,... eventually.

Maybe that's a nice fantasy, but so what? Atheists aren't competing over fantasies, to see who can invent the nicest one.

And in the real world, it's useful to recognize that justice, if it's to come at all, must come from us. We must work to defend the innocent and determine justice, because there's no magical solution if we fail to do that ourselves.

We must work to protect our environment, to save ourselves from ourselves, because this is the only Earth we've got, this is the only life we've got, and if we don't do it, no one will.

And we must determine right from wrong, because there are no shortcuts. There is no magic book to tell us that slavery is good and women's rights are bad. (Thankfully, the faith-based are very good at ignoring what they don't want to believe, even when it's written in their own Bible.) There is no magic man in the sky telling us to kill people who work on the Sabbath or burn women alive for having sex.

Sure, when tragedy strikes a Christian family, they might believe something which will make them feel better. (Or not. Often, Christians are led to believe that it's their fault, somehow, because otherwise 'God' would have defended them.) But whether comforting or not, is there any reason to believe that it's true?

Some of us think that the truth matters.

Squirrel plan


Actually, I'm a little worried that my squirrels are starting to think this about me. "Sure, he gives us peanuts from his pocket, occasionally. But why not chew a hole in him and get all of the peanuts?"

I've been telling them stories about the goose that laid the golden eggs, but I don't think they're getting the point.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

First clown emerges from the 2016 clown car

Yup, the 2016 circus has officially arrived, and the first clown out of the clown car is... Ted Cruz!

Is it possible that the Republican candidates for president in 2016 are going to be an even crazier bunch of clowns than they were in 2012? That's hard to believe, given the loony tunes running for office last time, but it does seem to be starting off that way.

Incidentally, here's the article from Think Progress that Cenk is talking about in that video clip. And here's Jaclyn Glenn, for a different perspective (as I want to be as 'fair and balanced' as they are at Fox):

Ted Cruz is a clown, but he's a clown with a real chance to be the next President of the United States. Not a good chance, I'd say, but after George W. Bush - and after the complete ass-whipping the Democrats suffered in November - how can you count him out?

Unfortunately, like many clowns, Cruz is actually much more frightening than he is funny.

Monday, March 23, 2015

John Oliver: municipal violations

I wish John Oliver could take over The Daily Show when Jon Stewart leaves, but I know that's not going to happen. He's a worthy successor, certainly.

Friday, March 20, 2015

One nation under Allah

Right-wingers at Fox 'News' are furious - their word - about saying the Pledge of Allegiance in an American high-school. Are they upset about violating the separation of church and state? Not exactly:
Students at Pine Bush High School in Pine Bush, New York, knew right away there was something not quite right about the Pledge of Allegiance. That’s because the pledge was being recited in Arabic.

“One nation under Allah,” the student body president announced over the intercom system on Wednesday.

But you can understand why they're so angry, right?
The school said the pledge was recited in Arabic as a way to honor National Foreign Language Week “and in an effort to celebrate the many races, cultures and religions that make up this great country.” It said the pledge had been recited in other languages throughout the week. ...

“Thanks to the illegal invasion and the concept of ‘celebrate diversity,’ English is becoming a foreign language in America,” one critic wrote on the local newspaper’s website.

What? Don't they know that English is God's language? Obviously, that's why he wrote the Bible in English. Duh!

All those other languages in the world? Who care's about them? America is exceptional, after all. If you don't believe it, just ask us.

And, of course, "English is becoming a foreign language in America." Yup. Why, just the other day, I saw a business with "taco" written all over it - blatantly, with no shame at all, apparently.

I suspect that, if I'd actually been willing to patronize such a satanic place, I might have heard the word spoken there, too! As it is, I didn't heard anyone actually speaking anything but God's good English that day, but clearly, America is under attack when people are allowed to put four-letter words like that - who knows what it might mean? - right out in public view.


Sorry. I tend to think I'm funny, but others seldom agree. I guess they just have no sense of humor, huh? :)

Anyway, the really funny thing about this is that "under God" - which wasn't added to America's Pledge of Allegiance until 1954 - has generally been permitted by U.S. courts, despite our constitutionally-mandated separation of church and state, by claiming that it's not about Christianity, or about religion at all, but only "ceremonial" and "patriotic" in nature.

Of course, that's complete bullshit. "God" is not religious? Well, this right-wing freak-out shows just how stupid that really is. "Allah" is just the Arab word for "God." Ironically, it's even supposed to be the same god that Christians worship!

So how can right-wing Christians get hysterical about "one nation under Allah" while completely dismissing atheist objections to "one nation under God"? Only by being complete hypocrites, obviously.

And how in the world could anyone get upset at reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in other languages? We're a nation of immigrants! Nothing could be more American than that, you'd think.

Oh, well. I don't know why I'm bothering to write this, anyway. No one understands English in America anymore, right? LOL

The Fox 'News' double-standard

This is why I love Jon Stewart. This is why we're really, really going to miss him.

Unfortunately, this kind of deliberate distortion of the news doesn't happen just at Fox. Here in Nebraska, you're likely to hear only one side of the news in the local media, too.

Every morning, I browse the websites of two local television stations (ever since my local newspaper went behind a paywall). They present some national news, too, of course - but it's interesting what they cover and what they don't.

When it comes to the troubles in Ferguson, Missouri, every bit of violence, rioting, and... spitting on the sidewalk was noted in news articles. Well, Missouri is a neighbor, right? But I haven't seen one word about the absolutely shocking Justice Department report on endemic racism - as a financial tool, no less - in the government there.

That act of treason by 47 Republican senators - including both of Nebraska's senators? Nothing. Complete silence. Wouldn't you think that Nebraska's own senators being a part of that would make it newsworthy in Nebraska?

Of course, Nebraska's news media jumped all over the Benghazi allegations - and also participated fully in the politically-manufactured Ebola hysteria that mysteriously stopped the minute elections were over in November. And Republican politicians are always handled with kid gloves. (That email 'scandal' of Hillary Clinton? Completely different.)

Sometimes, I'm astonished at how ignorant many Nebraskans are at what's going on in their own country, but this is why. By and large, they only get the right-wing side of the news - either because they self-select (watching Fox, but nothing else) or because that's all that's fed to them by their local media.

And the right-wing seems to have absolutely no shame about any of this. (Bill O'Reilly's serial lies? Fox 'News' didn't care in the slightest about that. Heck, they pay him to lie.)

But that comes with being faith-based, I suppose. When you know you're right, that makes any tactic justifiable. 'Lying for Jesus' is an established pattern of behavior that's easily stretched to politics, too - especially when you think it's the same thing.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Scenes from post-racial America


From TPM:
A vendor at a gun show this weekend in Sioux Falls, S.D. was spotted selling shooting targets with a cartoonish depiction of a black man and bearing the words "Official Runnin' N****r Target," television station KSFY reported on Sunday.

While a crew from KSFY was reporting on the "Collector's Classic Gun Show," one of the station's photographers noticed the targets showing the cartoonish silhouette. The KSFY photographer confronted the unidentified vendor who was selling the targets for 10 cents each and who was unfazed by the photographer's questions.

"Why are those on there?" KSFY's photographer asked.

"Why aren't they?" the vendor said. "They're just targets."

"Aren't they offensive in nature?" the photographer asked.

"To who? Are you a negro?" the vendor said. "You know there's some black people and then there's some negroes."

The unidentified vendor also added that he'd "sold 500 of them this weekend so what difference does it make?"

I'm sure glad racism in America is over, aren't you? I mean, except for white men, of course. We poor white men are the real victims of bigotry, right?  LOL

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

How politically-motivated treason works

From TPM:
Top U.S. and Iranian diplomats returned to talks Tuesday, seeking to resolve differences blocking a deal that would curtail Iran's nuclear program and ease sanctions on the country. Among the issues they're now contending with is a Republican letter warning that any deal could collapse the day President Barack Obama leaves office.

The discussions between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif came after a senior U.S. official described Iranian diplomats twice confronting their American counterparts about last week's open letter to Iran's leaders written by freshman Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and signed by 46 other GOP senators.

The letter came up in talks Sunday between senior U.S. and Iranian negotiators, the official said, and the Iranians raised it again in negotiations Monday led by Kerry and Zarif.

Note that phrase, "any deal" (my emphasis). Republicans are saying they won't honor any deal with Iran - obviously, since there isn't a deal to oppose, not yet.

As usual, Republicans oppose Barack Obama, not what Obama does. It's immaterial to them what the president actually does, since they're going to oppose it no matter what it is. Heck, they agreed to that before he'd even taken office for his first term.

No, this act of treason - working with Islamic extremists to sabotage our side in the negotiations with Iran - isn't about a particular agreement. It's just about the negotiations. They're simply trying to sabotage our side, America's side, in order to make the negotiations as difficult as possible for us.

Mostly, that's just their knee-jerk response to our first black president. The potential harm to America is not even a consideration, since the president will be blamed for any harm. If you can cause damage to your own country, but take no political blame yourself,... well, why wouldn't you, right? It's like being crazy to pass up a free war.

But these negotiations are also an attempt to avoid war, and Republicans want war - as long as someone else does the fighting, the dying, and the paying for it, of course. Defense industry lobbyists certainly want war, and Eisenhower's military-industrial complex owns the GOP.

Afghanistan was OK, but quickly got too boring for them. There were never many targets for our expensive missiles, and there are even fewer now. And we're long past the "shock and awe" phase in Iraq. We've left the country a complete mess, but who cares about that? It's long past time for another unnecessary war against another oil-rich country, isn't it?

I guess that treason works. Well, it's had an effect, anyway. Who knows if they'll actually be successful at sabotaging any agreement? But at the very least, America will get a worse agreement than before Republicans sabotaged their own side.

And that will be a plus for them, because it will be easier to win political points fighting against a poor agreement. Yes, they've indicated that they won't accept any agreement - indeed, that they'll fight against anything Barack Obama wants, no matter what it is - but a really good agreement would make that harder.

Which is why they committed treason in the first place - not so much to scuttle the negotiations entirely, but to make sure that America gets the worst agreement possible.

The GOP meth labs of democracy

Sure, Republicans seem to get crazier by the minute, but they also seem to get increasingly mean-spirited. Nothing is too viciously petty for them, apparently.

But they're 'defending' marriage, huh? Heck, Republican Tony Tinderholt loves marriage so much he's on his fifth wife already!

Of course, there's so much love in these guys that marriage just can't take all of it. So Dinesh D'Souza shares his love for marriage with his mistress, while Sen. David Vitter shares his love for marriage with prostitutes. I guess they really are defending 'traditional marriage,' huh? LOL

Sunday, March 15, 2015

WTF is wrong with Americans?

(via Daily Kos)

That's my question, too: when is enough going to be enough for us Americans?

For a larger image, check it out here. There are links to ultra-high definition copies there, as well. Better yet, browse Occupy Posters (t-shirts and other neat stuff, too).

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Simplistic, cliché-ridden, moronic, xenophobic pissed-off rednecks

I took my title from the first comment here (my thanks to Peter Hilton). The post is by PZ Myers, analyzing a new country-western song that seems even more idiotic than most:
There’s a cheesy country-western song that is getting quite popular. I admit, I’m not fond of the genre; while there’s the occasional spark of brilliance or great performer, most of it is smug white folks crying about how miserable their lives are while blaring out either fist-pumping patriotism or treacly self-pity. It’s still the music many people grew up with, though, so it’s fine if you like it. You don’t have to rationalize why you like it here, OK?

But some things need explaining. This new song, Pissed Off Rednecks Like Me” is getting a lot of undeserved attention because it is “controversial”. It isn’t — it’s dumb. It feeds a lot of bigotry, though, so bigots are enjoying it.

He then goes through the lyrics, line by line. I won't copy it here - I urge you to read it at Pharyngula - but let me just say that my title is appropriate.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Backlash against GOP letter to Iran

Here's more about the absolutely... unbelievable action by Republican senators in working with Muslim hardliners in Iran to sabotage America's side in the ongoing negotiations.

I've already blogged about it (here and here), but... what's next? Really, what's next? Is there any limit to the insanity from the GOP? It appears not.

Incidentally, there's a petition here asking the Justice Department to investigate this as a violation of the Logan Act. Will it get anywhere? Maybe not, but I signed it, anyway. And so have nearly 200,000 other Americans, so far.

Note that, as Ana Kasparian reminds us in this video clip, Republicans have no idea what this potential agreement will even say. They are trying to sabotage it without knowing anything about it.

Doesn't that remind you of something? Doesn't that remind you of how Republican leaders met, before Barack Obama had even taken office for his first term, and agreed to oppose everything he wanted - before he'd even proposed anything at all?

Doesn't that remind you of how Republicans have stated that they'll oppose anyone Obama nominates to various government positions? Anyone! Obviously, they don't care who it might be, when they pledge to oppose anyone he nominates.

Republicans don't oppose Barack Obama's policies, they oppose Barack Obama. They don't care what our first black president wants to accomplish. They don't care what policies he proposes. The fact that a black Democrat is in the White House is all that matters to them.

And this has been the case since before he even took office. I had to laugh, when Barack Obama was campaigning for the presidency, because before he'd even won the Democratic primary, there was an "Impeach Obama" group (on Facebook, if I remember correctly).

He hadn't taken office. He hadn't been elected yet. He hadn't even been nominated. But the very idea of a black man in the White House was already infuriating the racists.

It still is.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

John Oliver and the U.S. territories

Funny how we need a foreigner to remind us of these things, isn't it?

Of course, this will never change. Thanks to the Republican Party's notorious 'Southern strategy' of deliberately wooing white racists, racism is embedded in the GOP.

That doesn't just mean that Republicans would have a conniption fit about letting more brown people vote (though they would), but that racial minorities would have to be insane - or absolutely clueless - in order to vote Republican. Thus, even if Republicans weren't racist, they'd have everything to lose by doing what's right.

Now, Democrats might do the right thing, even if it's politically disastrous for them. After all, that's exactly what they did when they supported desegregating our military during the Truman years, and again when they supported civil rights in the 1960s.

The South had been a gimme for the Democrats for more than a century, but they gave that up to do what was best for America. Republicans, on the other hand, cynically took advantage of that political opportunity, began to deliberately woo white racists, and took the entire South for themselves.

So there's no way in hell that Republicans would do what was right, if it wasn't politically advantageous for them - especially now that they've filled the party with fearful racists and similar crazies.

But we do need reminding of these things, from time to time. John Oliver does a fine job here.

GOP leaders betray America, write letter to Iran

Hmm,... I see that Cenk Uygur is almost as angry about this as I am.

Selma: discriminating against white people since 1965

Tell me, could anyone but Fox 'News' turn Selma, Alabama, into a story about how a white man was discriminated against? It's almost funny, isn't it? Oh, we poor white men! When will the suffering end?

Of course, the New York Times didn't crop George W. Bush out of the picture. The photographer provided the photo they used, which didn't include the edges of the crowd:
The photographer, Doug Mills, provided Sullivan with more detail.

"Bush was in the bright sunlight," he explained. "I did not even send this frame because it’s very wide and super busy and Bush is super-overexposed because he was in the sun and Obama and the others are in the shade."

Still, the narrative of white victimhood will continue at Fox. As you know, we straight white men are the only people to really suffer from discrimination these days. (LOL)

Then there's CNN, where the focus of the story was, as usual, on their own technology. But then, both CNN and Fox are in the 'news' business - loosely speaking - to make money. Fox has an equal interest in pushing right-wing ideology, but if they weren't making lots of money from the gullible old geezers who watch the network, they wouldn't be doing it.

CNN is apparently relying on gizmos and gee-whiz technology to attract viewers. That doesn't work nearly as well, I suspect.

Anyway, to get back to commemorating the Selma march, here's the full text of President Obama's remarks. Now, I don't like the religious stuff. Obama serves all Americans, not just the Christians. (Admittedly, given the loony stuff continually spewed from the right-wing - Obama is a Kenyan, a Muslim, a terrorist who hates America - he might be wise to include it.)

But most of it is great:
The Americans who crossed this bridge were not physically imposing. But they gave courage to millions. They held no elected office. But they led a nation. They marched as Americans who had endured hundreds of years of brutal violence, and countless daily indignities – but they didn’t seek special treatment, just the equal treatment promised to them almost a century before. ...

As we commemorate their achievement, we are well-served to remember that at the time of the marches, many in power condemned rather than praised them. Back then, they were called Communists, half-breeds, outside agitators, sexual and moral degenerates, and worse – everything but the name their parents gave them. Their faith was questioned. Their lives were threatened. Their patriotism was challenged.

And yet, what could be more American than what happened in this place?

What could more profoundly vindicate the idea of America than plain and humble people – the unsung, the downtrodden, the dreamers not of high station, not born to wealth or privilege, not of one religious tradition but many – coming together to shape their country’s course?

What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this; what greater form of patriotism is there; than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals? ...

The American instinct that led these young men and women to pick up the torch and cross this bridge is the same instinct that moved patriots to choose revolution over tyranny. It’s the same instinct that drew immigrants from across oceans and the Rio Grande; the same instinct that led women to reach for the ballot and workers to organize against an unjust status quo; the same instinct that led us to plant a flag at Iwo Jima and on the surface of the Moon.

It’s the idea held by generations of citizens who believed that America is a constant work in progress; who believed that loving this country requires more than singing its praises or avoiding uncomfortable truths. It requires the occasional disruption, the willingness to speak out for what’s right and shake up the status quo.

That’s what makes us unique, and cements our reputation as a beacon of opportunity. ...

Because of what they did, the doors of opportunity swung open not just for African-Americans, but for every American. Women marched through those doors. Latinos marched through those doors. Asian-Americans, gay Americans, and Americans with disabilities came through those doors. Their endeavors gave the entire South the chance to rise again, not by reasserting the past, but by transcending the past. ...

We do a disservice to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable, or that racial division is inherent to America. If you think nothing’s changed in the past fifty years, ask somebody who lived through the Selma or Chicago or L.A. of the Fifties. Ask the female CEO who once might have been assigned to the secretarial pool if nothing’s changed. Ask your gay friend if it’s easier to be out and proud in America now than it was thirty years ago. To deny this progress – our progress – would be to rob us of our own agency; our responsibility to do what we can to make America better.

Of course, a more common mistake is to suggest that racism is banished, that the work that drew men and women to Selma is complete, and that whatever racial tensions remain are a consequence of those seeking to play the “race card” for their own purposes. We don’t need the Ferguson report to know that’s not true. We just need to open our eyes, and ears, and hearts, to know that this nation’s racial history still casts its long shadow upon us. We know the march is not yet over, the race is not yet won, and that reaching that blessed destination where we are judged by the content of our character – requires admitting as much. ...

That’s what America is. Not stock photos or airbrushed history or feeble attempts to define some of us as more American as others. We respect the past, but we don’t pine for it. We don’t fear the future; we grab for it. America is not some fragile thing; we are large, in the words of Whitman, containing multitudes. We are boisterous and diverse and full of energy, perpetually young in spirit. That’s why someone like John Lewis at the ripe age of 25 could lead a mighty march.

And that’s what the young people here today and listening all across the country must take away from this day. You are America. Unconstrained by habits and convention. Unencumbered by what is, and ready to seize what ought to be. For everywhere in this country, there are first steps to be taken, and new ground to cover, and bridges to be crossed. And it is you, the young and fearless at heart, the most diverse and educated generation in our history, who the nation is waiting to follow.

Because Selma shows us that America is not the project of any one person.

Because the single most powerful word in our democracy is the word “We.” We The People. We Shall Overcome. Yes We Can. It is owned by no one. It belongs to everyone. Oh, what a glorious task we are given, to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.

All Americans should hear that speech. Almost none will. CNN undoubtedly spent more time talking about their own network's accomplishments. And I'm sure more people will hear Fox 'News' complaining about it than will hear, or read, President Obama's speech.

They'll hear excerpts, no doubt, but a lot shorter excerpts than what I've posted here. And this is just an excerpt. But for me, it hits the right buttons - the buttons that will make the right-wing scream in outrage,... but also make them cover it up, as much as they can.

If America listens, the right-wing is toast.

GOP traitors


This was the headline in the New York Daily News. Now, tabloid newspapers tend to be sensational as a matter of course, and ordinarily, I'd ignore it. But in this case, I'm not sure it's not accurate.

Congressional Republicans just get crazier and crazier, but some things are just so astonishing, it's still hard to imagine. This is one of them:
Forty-seven Republican senators signed an open letter to Iran's leaders warning that a potential nuclear deal won't outlast Barack Obama's presidency, hinting that Congress does not intend to honor it.

The letter, led by freshman Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and first reported by Bloomberg View, comes at a highly sensitive time as the Obama administration is reportedly closing in on an agreement to lift economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for halting its nuclear program for as many as 15 years.

"It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system," the Republican senators wrote. "First, under our Constitution, while the president negotiates international agreements, Congress plays the significant role of ratifying them. In the case of a treaty, the Senate must ratify it by a two-thirds vote. ... Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement."

(The senators erred in their description of how treaties work. As Harvard professor Jack Goldsmith pointed out, the Senate does play a key role in voting on and consenting to a treaty, but it is the president who negotiates and formally "ratifies" it, as the Congressional Research Service has explained.) ...

The signatories to the letter include three potential Republican presidential candidates — Sens. Rand Paul (KY), Ted Cruz (TX) and Marco Rubio (FL) — and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY).

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) attacked the Republican letter as a "juvenile political attack" aimed at "undermining our commander in chief." Republicans, he said, "cannot accept the fact that this good man, Barack Obama, this man with the unusual name, was elected twice by overwhelming margins by the people of this country."

In Senate floor remarks, he said Democrats never contemplated sending a letter to Iraq's leaders highlighting their disagreements with President George W. Bush. ...

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), a close Obama ally, excoriated Republicans on Monday, calling the letter a "political stunt" that could lead to another Middle East war.

"This is a cynical effort by Republican Senators to undermine sensitive international negotiations—it weakens America’s hand and highlights our political divisions to the rest of the world," he said in a statement. "Understand that if these negotiations fail, a military response to Iran developing their nuclear capability becomes more likely. These Republican Senators should think twice about whether their political stunt is worth the threat of another war in the Middle East."

As Jack Goldsmith points out, these Republicans claim to be explaining the American political system to ignorant foreigners, but they apparently don't even understand it themselves, since they got it wrong in the letter.

But that's a minor - if humorous - point. Can you just imagine if the Democrats had sent a letter to Saddam Hussein in opposition to President Bush (either of them)? Can you imagine, at any time earlier in our history, if either one of our political parties had sent a letter to one of America's enemies, seeking to undermine our president?

That would seem just... unimaginable, wouldn't it? "Treason" is not too strong a word. Certainly, at any other time in our history, "treason" wouldn't just have been in tabloid headlines.

But these days, nothing the Republicans do is really surprising. Rather, everything they do seems to be crazier than the previous thing, and everyone in America has become so used to it that nothing really astonishes us anymore. But it should. It really should.

Vice-President Joe Biden, who has a long history in the Senate, issued a statement which seems to mirror my own sense of astonishment and outrage:
I served in the United States Senate for thirty-six years. I believe deeply in its traditions, in its value as an institution, and in its indispensable constitutional role in the conduct of our foreign policy. The letter sent on March 9th by forty-seven Republican Senators to the Islamic Republic of Iran, expressly designed to undercut a sitting President in the midst of sensitive international negotiations, is beneath the dignity of an institution I revere.

This letter, in the guise of a constitutional lesson, ignores two centuries of precedent and threatens to undermine the ability of any future American President, whether Democrat or Republican, to negotiate with other nations on behalf of the United States. Honorable people can disagree over policy. But this is no way to make America safer or stronger.

Around the world, America’s influence depends on its ability to honor its commitments. Some of these are made in international agreements approved by Congress. However, as the authors of this letter must know, the vast majority of our international commitments take effect without Congressional approval. And that will be the case should the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany reach an understanding with Iran. There are numerous similar cases. The recent U.S.-Russia framework to remove chemical weapons from Syria is only one recent example. Arrangements such as these are often what provide the protections that U.S. troops around the world rely on every day. They allow for the basing of our forces in places like Afghanistan. They help us disrupt the proliferation by sea of weapons of mass destruction. They are essential tools to the conduct of our foreign policy, and they ensure the continuity that enables the United States to maintain our credibility and global leadership even as Presidents and Congresses come and go.

Since the beginning of the Republic, Presidents have addressed sensitive and high-profile matters in negotiations that culminate in commitments, both binding and non-binding, that Congress does not approve. Under Presidents of both parties, such major shifts in American foreign policy as diplomatic recognition of the People’s Republic of China, the resolution of the Iran hostage crisis, and the conclusion of the Vietnam War were all conducted without Congressional approval.

In thirty-six years in the United States Senate, I cannot recall another instance in which Senators wrote directly to advise another country—much less a longtime foreign adversary— that the President does not have the constitutional authority to reach a meaningful understanding with them. This letter sends a highly misleading signal to friend and foe alike that that our Commander-in-Chief cannot deliver on America’s commitments—a message that is as false as it is dangerous.

The decision to undercut our President and circumvent our constitutional system offends me as a matter of principle. As a matter of policy, the letter and its authors have also offered no viable alternative to the diplomatic resolution with Iran that their letter seeks to undermine. ...

The author of this letter has been explicit that he is seeking to take any action that will end President Obama’s diplomatic negotiations with Iran. But to what end? If talks collapse because of Congressional intervention, the United States will be blamed, leaving us with the worst of all worlds. Iran’s nuclear program, currently frozen, would race forward again. We would lack the international unity necessary just to enforce existing sanctions, let alone put in place new ones. Without diplomacy or increased pressure, the need to resort to military force becomes much more likely—at a time when our forces are already engaged in the fight against ISIL.

America's system of government relies on the fact that losing an election is not the end of the world. There's always the next election, after all. In a democracy, you win some and you lose some.

This is still America. This was still my country, even when George W. Bush was president. This was still my country, even when he was appointed president by the five Republicans on our Supreme Court, rather than winning the election in 2000.

Through unnecessary war, through the invasion of a completely innocent country, through the torture of prisoners of war, through economic policies that gave us the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, America was still my country. We lost in 2000 and again - incredibly, to my mind - in 2008. But there was always another election coming up.

This is the way it's been in America for more than two centuries. This has been the understanding of both political parties, for their entire existence,... until now, with the election of our first black president.

Now, with the election of our first black president, the Republican Party has completely lost its mind. Today's Republican Party, formed by their notorious 'Southern strategy' of deliberately wooing white racists, has gone hysterically insane. Apparently, just the idea of a black man as President of the United States has broken their little minds.

Certainly, it has broken their commitment to our country and its institutions. From shouting "liar" on the floor of Congress during a State of the Union address to claiming that the president is actually African, not American; from agreeing, before that president had even taken office - and at a time of two wars, with our economy cratering around us - to do nothing, no matter what it might be, that the president might propose... to sending a letter to America's enemy, seeking to undermine our side in the negotiations; well, what's next? Really, what could possibly be next?

Sure, this is politics. But America has had more than two centuries of rough-and-tumble politics. It's often been nasty, but we've never seen anything like this before. We kept our domestic disputes at home. Our politicians, by and large, still valued America and still valued America's institutions. Certainly, those who didn't were marginalized on the fringe.

But today, in the Republican Party, the fringe is mainstream. Republicans have become so hysterical at the thought of a black man in the White House that they've completely lost their minds.

Barack Obama is a mainstream Democrat, which means he's a bit conservative for my tastes, not very eager to rock the boat, and much too willing to bend over backward trying to make his political enemies see reason. He's about as mild-mannered and reasonable as it's possible to be.

But he's black, and that's all that most Republicans can see. It's the one thing Barack Obama can't change, and it's the one thing that Republicans find unforgivable. Even after six years, they haven't gotten used to it. It's still driving them crazy - indeed, crazier and crazier as time goes on.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sioux City, IA, packing plant explosion, 1949

On December 14, 1949, the Swift & Company packing plant in Sioux City, Iowa, exploded, killing 21 people and injuring more than 90, many of them seriously. It was a natural gas leak, apparently, though no one ever determined why.

My mother worked in the office there. She'd just returned from her honeymoon and gone back to work two days previously.

I know I'm a little late for an anniversary retrospective, but I was just talking to her about it. Her cousin had told her she'd been mentioned in their small hometown newspaper - which surprised her, since she'd left town 72 years before. Yup, it was their retrospective. 65 years previously, Mom had been listed as seriously injured in the explosion.

I've known about this for years, though she didn't talk about it much. (I think I found some old newspaper clippings, one time.) Until today, I hadn't even realized it happened in 1949, less than three weeks after my parents married. They'd taken a honeymoon to the Grand Canyon (and Bryce Canyon, which especially impressed them). Mom returned to work on Monday, and on Wednesday, the office blew up.

Mom was struck by flying glass and was cut from head to toe. She tells me that one of the women she worked with turned to her afterwards and started screaming uncontrollably, over and over again, since Mom was such a bloody mess. Luckily, all of the glass missed her eyes, though just barely.

One thing she used to say to us kids - and she repeated today - is that you never know how people will behave in an emergency until it happens. Of course, they were all in shock, but some people completely fell apart. Some, though injured themselves, immediately began to help others. One man just walked back and forth, praying continuously. Others tried to stem the blood loss and carried her outside.

She knew many of those killed or crippled by the explosion, and she knew she'd been very lucky, herself. My dad was out of town, driving a truck for a grocery wholesaler. Someone got in contact with him and told him to get back to Sioux City fast, because his wife might not survive long. As I say, they'd only returned from their honeymoon a few days previously.

At the hospital, they painstakingly picked glass out of her skin. Shaved bald, she must have been quite a sight. She says she was dizzy for a long time afterwards. But she recovered completely, unlike some of her co-workers.

Here's an excerpt from a city history:
The blast blew out parts of the west wall of the building and shattered all the windows. Floors and walls collapsed. The account in the Sioux City Journal declared, "Heavy steel doors and equipment throughout the structure were blown about like matchwood." The blast left a nightmare of twisted steel and tangled debris. Twenty-one people died and more than 90 people were injured. ...

The six-story building housed the main offices of Swift and Company along with other operations. Offices in the building received the full force of the blast. The room from which meat shipments were made was on the first floor. The third, fourth and fifth floors housed the sausage plant and smoke house. Offices, including those of the superintendent, were demolished. Hardest hit was the main floor and basement. The floor over the basement collapsed. Slaughtering houses located in the north end of the plant were not damaged as much.

Witnesses said that employees in the main office ran from the building with their clothes in tatters. Many of them were bleeding from wounds. Others suffered from ammonia burns. ...

The Fire Department was first to arrive. Fortunately, there was little fire, and fireman quickly joined the volunteers in the search for survivors. Nearly all of the available firemen and policemen were called to the scene. All ambulances were called to duty, but there were not enough of them. Many of the injured were brought to hospitals in private vehicles. Governor Beardsley authorized the mobilization of the National Guard to help in the disaster. The Salvation Army and the Red Cross set up canteen stations to serve coffee and sandwiches to the victims and rescuers.

Ammonia and gas fumes spread through the area, creating fear of another explosion. The police used loudspeakers to warn rescuers and bystanders not to smoke. Some rescuers wore gas masks to prevent being overcome by the fumes. Swift and Company mechanics attacked the wreckage with hacksaws in the effort to clear the way for rescuers. They were afraid that the use of torches could spark another blast. Automobile wreckers and a huge airplane wrecker from the Air National Guard were brought in to help clear the heavy steel girders.

Say what you will about Sioux City, IA - and growing up across the river from the city, I was never a fan - Sioux City tends to perform well in emergencies. Remember the crash of the United Airlines flight 232? Sioux City was rightly praised for its response to that, too.

The company, the packing plant, and my mom all survived the explosion. Swift & Company was bought out by a Brazilian corporation, JBS S.A., in 2007. The building was finally torn down in 2010. Mom is still going strong. :)


From one clueless idiot to another. :)

Settling down in Kenshi

Michelle, Doc, and Soo ganging up on a dust bandit

I'm still playing Kenshi like crazy. (See my previous posts about the game here and here.) I've recruited nearly 30 followers, so far - all women - and I've started to build my own city.

I intended mostly just to post some screenshots here. (As usual, I got carried away.) But first, please note that Kenshi is still in development - still in alpha, in fact. It's unfinished. It's buggy as hell. It's still lots of fun, but this is very much a work in progress.

Nice doggie (not as friendly as he looks)

In my last post, I described a journey through the desert from one town to another. I've continued that, because I need to recruit more people for my faction. You can only recruit people in bars. Two people are available for hire in each establishment, and there are two bars in most towns.

Of course, I'm only recruiting women (don't ask), and you can change everything else about your recruits, but not their gender. So, on average, I find slightly less than two potential recruits per town.

Woo, hoo! Four new recruits from a single town!

NPCs don't respawn - not yet, anyway. And sometimes bandits kill these people, or some of the merchants in a town. But after visiting every town to gather followers, I can just import my saved game into a new game. That repopulates the world again. I keep my existing followers, while getting new people to recruit.

There are animals in the game now - in the experimental version, at least. Wolves (wild dog-things) are everywhere, and very, very tough. We encountered one beak thing, too - like a carnivorous giraffe, very large - but that's all, so far.

We fight a beak thing.

Unfortunately, animals don't drop any loot. I can't even figure out a way to kill them, after they're unconscious. If you stick around, they're likely to stand back up and start fighting again (admittedly, much easier to strike down again, since they remain critically injured).

The neat thing is that all of our enemies are enemies of each other, too. We were resting up in town, almost recovered from injuries, when we were attacked by hungry bandits. No problem, since I had my best fighters in the squad, and hungry bandits are easily the weakest faction.

A broad pass through the mountains. A city might do well here.

But as we were finishing them off, a band of dust bandits ran into town and attacked all of us - my people and the hungry bandits both. And right on their heels came a pack of wild dogs. Apparently, the dogs had seen the dust bandits and were chasing after them. But they smacked into the free-for-all and attacked anyone within reach - dust bandit, hungry bandit, and my people, alike.

Fun! (Luckily, the dogs came from the same direction as the dust bandits - as I say, they were probably following them - so those two groups were on the same side of the battle and mostly fought each other.)

Looking north to the future site of Darwin (that pass through the mountains is centered in this view)

Anyway, while traveling from town to town, I wasn't just recruiting, but exploring. I was looking for a good location for founding my own town. First, you need resources - stone, iron, water, and/or fertile... um, sand (with irrigation, you can grow crops at low elevations).

Then you need defensible terrain. Yes, you can build anywhere and put walls all around your city. But that takes time. At first, it's useful to have impassible terrain in some directions - natural walls, basically.

Very rough ground to the east.

Finally, I was looking for a place that made sense. Ideally, I wanted a location on a natural trade route (whether or not that trade route existed in the game, I wanted a place which would make the most sense in the real world).

And I found a great location towards the east of the map, far from any existing towns. Stone and iron were both abundant on the ridge, and there was a deep, narrow, dead-end canyon just to the north with water and fertile soil.

Looking NW, another view of the pass. That steep, dead-end canyon - for water and crops - is just to the right.

There's a range of mountains dividing the desert to the north from the rougher, higher land to the south, and this location was very near one of the few passes connecting the two. A narrow ridge next to a narrow valley made two clear trading paths to the town of Bark, far to the south. This was where trading caravans would travel, if the world were real.

Another narrow ridge led northeast into very rough land (I haven't explored that yet), so we had natural defenses from the northeast to the southeast. The north, as I say, led into a dead-end canyon. The west was relatively open, but I could start my town on a narrow ridge and expand into the open area later, if I wished.

Looking southeast - easy, but defensible, passage to Bark.

Basically, there were only three ways into my starting location, all quite narrow. Now, when I first came through the area, there were bandits everywhere. But we cleared them out, before traveling on to Bark. Since we've returned and started to build the town of Darwin, we haven't seen any bandits at all - or only from a distance, at least.

We haven't had any problem with wild dogs, either, but we've seen dogs attacking bandit gangs - again, just from a distance. In most directions, it's difficult to get to us. And for bandits and dog packs alike, too much backtracking is likely to find them other enemies before they get here.

Another view SE towards Bark.

As I say, Darwin is a long, long way from other towns. That means I can't rely on trading to get supplies. (If you build a town near another town, you can grow wheat and make rum, for example, and trade that for the money needed to buy building supplies from the existing town.)

Given our location, I needed to make my own building supplies, which meant bringing enough with me to build a stone quarry, a stone processor, and an electrical generator to power them. With that, I can make the building supplies needed to build everything else. It takes awhile, but your people become more effective at everything the more they do it.

Wide open to the southwest, but abundant reserves of iron, too.

Right now, my A-team of fighters is looping around the world again, recruiting more NPCs (a town requires a lot of laborers). The rest of my people are guarding Darwin, building it, and researching new technologies. (The game has a huge technology tree, with multiple levels. I still don't know how far it goes.)

I imported my existing characters, and our existing research, into a new game, just before I started building the town. Importing buildings is supposed to be very buggy, so it's possible that we'll lose what we've already built when I do that again.

But no problem. I'll need to keep importing the game in order to get the number of people I need. Before I do that again, I'll make sure my engineers have plenty of building supplies in their backpacks, enough to start the process of building all over again, if necessary.

The initial settlement of Darwin - stone mine, stone processor, electric generator, and storage boxes - looking NW towards the pass.

Note that dismantling structures is very quick, but you don't get any supplies at all from it. On the other hand, your people keep their skills. Your engineers become faster at building through experience. Your researchers become faster at researching through experience. And your laborers become faster at producing useful supplies through experience.

If I do have to rebuild my initial structures in Darwin, it will go much quicker the second time. And as I research new technologies, I often have to do that, anyway. (Most structures can be upgraded, but others have to be torn down and rebuilt.)

Kenshi is addicting, it really is. It's been years in development, and I'm sure it will be years before it's finished - if it ever is. It's really buggy. The game crashes frequently, there are a lot of things that don't work right, and you have to save the game regularly, to avoid complete frustration. (There's an auto-save and also a quick-save key, as well as regular saved games.)

But it's been worth every bit of that, so far. I expect to build up my city, then set the game aside for awhile. When I come back to it, months later, there will be new features to check out. (In particular, they're supposed to be developing a brand-new map. That sounds intriguing!)

Note: My other posts about Kenshi, and many other games, can be found here.

Friday, March 6, 2015

America's 150-year-old war on activist women

From TPM, here's another interesting column, this time by Ben Railton, on America's 150-year-old war on activist women.

Before I quote from that, let me note that this continues - to a surprising extent - even today. Women who speak out on the internet are hounded mercilessly, threatened at home and online (rape threats are particularly common), intimidated in all sorts of ways, with the intent of making their lives so miserable that they don't even want to go online anymore.

Blogs and YouTube channels of people like Rebecca Watson, for example, who become the targets of hysterical lunatics for the slightest of things, are filled with trolls who seemingly spend all their time waiting for another post or another video, so they can be the first to spew their venom and vitriol.

It's not criticism; it's trolling. If you've spent much time online at all, the difference is clear. The topic of their post or their video doesn't matter in the slightest.

Admittedly, most of these trolls - inevitably men, I'm sorry to say - don't post rape threats. But what they do is almost worse. They laugh at rape. They make jokes about rape. They minimize the threat from lunatics, and make fun of women who worry that some of these lunatics - including those who actually track them down at home - might really mean it.

Meanwhile, of course, they comment on the woman's appearance in the most degrading, sex-obsessed, slimy sorts of ways. Well, as I say, this isn't criticism. It's intimidation. Their goal is to make the woman so weary of experiencing the worst of humanity that they just give up - stop posting, stop reading emails, stop using the internet at all.

Activist women are targets, pure and simple. There are men who get absolutely incensed that a woman might speak out about,... well, anything. This isn't a matter of legitimate disagreement, but about hysterical anger, sexual frustration, and primate breast-beating, all in complete anonymity. (With obsessive determination, they'll 'out' any woman who attempts to remain anonymous, herself - even posting her address and other personal details online - but they usually stay safely anonymous themselves.)

As a man, I find it incredibly disgusting and extremely embarrassing. But I see here that it's not new. How dare women think that they should be allowed to vote, or that they should be otherwise considered equal to men!
Take the Grimké sisters, for example. Born to a prominent South Carolina family, Angelina and Sarah Grimké became two of the 19th century’s most committed activists: for women’s rights, as in Sarah’s Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women (1838); for the abolition of slavery, as in Angelina’s Appeal to the Christian Women of the South (1836); and for other social causes and reforms. They were consistently condemned and vilified for those efforts, most especially for speaking in public and to “promiscuous” (i.e. mixed-gender) audiences. At one such event, at an 1838 anti-slavery convention in Philadelphia, Angelina spoke for more than an hour while stones and other objects were hurled against the windows and walls by a hostile mob—a mob that returned the next day and set fire to the convention hall.

Hostility toward abolitionists was, of course, interconnected with attacks on public women in that particular case, although the broader critiques of their public speaking efforts focused entirely on the Grimkés’ gender. But there were no such mitigating factors in the late 19th and early 20th century attacks on women’s suffrage activists. When thousands of suffrage activists marched to the White House to protest Woodrow Wilson’s March 1913 inauguration (scheduled for the next day), they were cursed, spit upon and even physically attacked by hostile crowds. Even when they weren’t being physically assaulted, suffrage activists were consistently belittled and demonized in media and cultural texts, such as the 1910 children’s book Ten Little Suffergets, which depicted the activists as silly little girls fortunately dissuaded from their cause by everything from cake and a “DEAD dolly” to drowning and a whipping.

Such longstanding historical attacks, physical as well as cultural, provide an important context for the late 20th century “backlash” against feminism identified by Susan Faludi and other scholars, as well as for our contemporary debates over birth control, wage equality and other issues. But along with the overt attacks, it’s important to consider another ongoing side of these American histories: the effects they had and continue to have on talented and innovative women in all walks of life. Illustrating those effects is the frustrating story of Sophia Hayden Bennett, the first woman to graduate from MIT with a degree in architecture and the architect chosen (only three years later, at the age of 23) to design the Women’s Building at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Despite this honor, Hayden Bennett’s design was criticized for “revealing the limitations” of its creator’s gender; the American Architect and Building News went further in its review, arguing that “as a woman’s work it ‘goes’ of course … it is simply weak and commonplace … The roof garden is a hen-coop for petticoated hens, old and young.”

Fed up with such responses, and likely extremely limited in her opportunities, Hayden Bennett never designed another building, and retired from architecture less than two years after the Exposition. When we see men follow Hillary Clinton around during her 2008 presidential campaign with signs ordering her to “iron their shirts,” witness the bullying and threats directed at female video game designers and scholars in the ongoing Gamergate controversy, it’s important to ask whether these longstanding histories have changed—and how many other talented American women might be forced out of their chosen professions and public activisms.

In the 19th Century, hostility towards women commonly had a Biblical basis. As Elizabeth Cady Stanton said in 1897, "In the early days of woman-suffrage agitation, I saw that the greatest obstacle we had to overcome was the bible. It was hurled at us on every side."

That's still the case to some extent (as with every issue, Christians are on both sides, since their god is completely inept at communication, apparently). However, there's also an embarrassing strain of misogyny in the atheist community these days.

Sure, atheism is just the disbelief in gods, nothing more. It's a very narrow label, and tells you nothing about what an atheist does believe. But it's still embarrassing. I came by my atheism from skepticism, but not all atheists are skeptics. Not all atheists are even decent human beings.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Rachel Maddow ridicules Bill O'Reilly

Rachel Maddow does such a good job with these, doesn't she? But she doesn't mention how enthusiastically Fox 'News' attacked Brian Williams, the NBC anchor, for misrepresenting - or just misremembering - his helicopter ride in Iraq (which was in an active war zone).

And note that NBC News suspended Williams for six months, because of that. But the reaction of Fox 'News' to Bill O'Reilly's serial lies? Oh, he's got great ratings! Of course, his job at Fox 'News' is to lie.

PS. I saw this originally at TPM, but couldn't get the embedded video clip to play. It worked when I went directly to Media Matters, though. Try that if you have any trouble here.

Racism, sexism, and Obamacare

According to Amanda Marcotte at TPM, the fight against Obamacare has always been about race and gender anxiety (in other words, the Republican Party's notorious 'Southern strategy' strikes again).

She makes some good points, starting with a remarkable quote from an Obamacare opponent:
In case the situation with the latest Obamacare lawsuit, King v. Burwell, wasn’t surreal enough, along comes the anti-Obamacare lawyer Michael Carvin, and some of his, um, more colorful ideas about why the Affordable Care Act is bad law. Trying to contrast the ACA with the constitution, Carvin characterized the ACA as “a statute that was written three years ago, not by dead white men but by living white women and minorities.”

It’s startling to see an Obamacare opponent so bluntly characterize efforts to destroy the law as a way to preserve white male privilege in this way, much less taking it so far as to suggest the privileges of dead white men count for more than the needs of living women and people of color. But it shouldn’t be. The race- and-gender-based opposition to the ACA has been baked into the fight against it from the beginning, when the bill was very nearly derailed by opponents claiming that it would somehow override federal bans on funding abortion. ...

Ugly racial attitudes influenced the opposition to Obamacare in two major ways: Hostility to the black President that signed it into law and hostility to the black people who might get better healthcare through it. It’s exceedingly rare to find, outside of Carvin’s bizarre comment, any conservatives overtly mentioning race in their objections to Obamacare. But then again, they don’t need to. All they need to do is whip out the standard conservative talking points that have racially loaded implications built right into them: “States’ rights,” “welfare queens,” loaded warnings about the supposed wave of laziness about to crest over our nation. All these ideas are rooted in our nation’s history of racism—indeed, “states’ rights” was invented to justify slavery and then segregation—and the way that conservatives lean on these ideas now suggest that one of the unspoken but heavily insinuated arguments against Obamacare is that it’s a way for the federal government to steal health care from white people and give it to black people. Adds a new dimension to the fear of “death panels” when you think about it.

Social science, as Paul Waldman showed in the Washington Post last May, bears this out: Attitudes about race and about the ACA are tightly interwoven. Research has shown that negative attitudes about black people increase hostility to health care reform, that opinions about health care reform polarized by racial attitudes after Obama’s election, and that nativist attitudes predicted hostility to health care reform. Research has found that white people with high racial resentment, regardless of their opinion on Obama, view health care reform as a giveaway to lazy black people. You can see why people don’t say these things out loud in public, but the eyebrow-wriggling and hinting has been strong throughout this debate.

The gender-baiting, in contrast, has been way more explicit. Ever since the HHS announced that contraception would be covered as co-pay-free preventive service, conservative media has gleefully portrayed the ACA as a program to give hot young sluts an opportunity to screw on the public dime, an argument that managed to get this narrow provision all the way to the Supreme Court. Never mind that young women with private insurance are no more on the public dime than any other people who have private health insurance. The idea that sexy young things are having fun without you but making you pay for it has been just too provocative for conservative pundits to let facts get in the way.

I've written a lot about the Republican 'Southern strategy' here, but I guess I never thought through the implications when it came to Obamacare.

It has seemed,... well, bizarre that Republican outrage would be so vehement, so angry, so hysterical about a program that was originally Republican, itself. After all, 'Obamacare' was the conservative health care reform plan originally, developed in a right-wing think tank as the free market alternative to Clinton-era proposals, and widely supported in the GOP right up until the moment that Democrats agreed to go along with it, too.

I assumed that this was just part of the agreement among Republicans to oppose everything wanted by President Obama, no matter what it was - an agreement they'd made before Obama even took office for his first term. I assumed, frankly, that their outrage was just faked for political purposes (and among Republican leaders, I'm sure that's still commonly the case).

And sure, race-based hostility to President Obama has long been obvious, and it certainly counts for a lot of the hysterical anger coming from the right, but I still didn't realize the connection that Marcotte has demonstrated here.

This whole thing reminds me of Lee Atwater and the so-called Reagan Democrats. In the 1980s, Republicans convinced working-class white men to vote against their own best interests - to support tax cuts for the rich and ever-widening wealth inequality (with them on the losing side) - by making economic issues all about race.

In the above post, I quoted this article:
Whatever its abstract intellectual roots, conservatism has since at least the sixties drawn its political strength by appealing to heartland identity politics. In 1985, Stanley Greenberg, then a political scientist, immersed himself in Macomb County, a blue-collar Detroit suburb where whites had abandoned the Democratic Party in droves. He found that the Reagan Democrats there understood politics almost entirely in racial terms, translating any Democratic appeal to economic justice as taking their money to subsidize the black underclass. And it didn’t end with the Reagan era. Piles of recent studies have found that voters often conflate “social” and “economic” issues.

It's not just racial, either - not these days, at least. It's sexism, too. In fact, as women become better educated - competing with men for the better jobs - many men are becoming positively unglued. I'd swear that misogyny is increasing in America. I can't tell you how many white men have told me that white men are the only real victims of discrimination in America.

So, yes, this seems very plausible to me. I can see how racism and sexism aren't just incidental to the hysteria about Obamacare, but are actually the heart of the opposition.

This explains so much! It's always seemed weird to me that helping more people get health insurance would provoke such anger, such vitriol, such sputtering outrage. I mean,... really?  How angry could you really get about more people getting health insurance (private health insurance, especially)?

Put into a racist, sexist mindset, though, the anger becomes clear. It's not just that Barack Obama is black. It's even worse than I expected. The Republican Party has done even more damage to our country than that.

And as I say, while racism is getting better in America - despite all this - misogyny seems to be growing. It's not just old white men, but younger men, too. (MRA trolls are pretty much everywhere on the Internet these days, and they're as angry as they are obsessive.)

So while I can see the elderly white racists of the GOP dying out over time, I worry that there might be a new pool for Republican strategists to tap: bitter, angry, misogynist men, whatever their ethnicity. (And yes, they will get some women to vote for them, even so.)

With luck, the Republican Party has so pissed off African-American and Hispanic men that non-white misogynists won't bite, even if they hate women. But it's still worrisome. After all, the GOP has had no qualms about using whatever they can use, no matter how disgusting it might be, to maintain power. For their wealthy backers, it's all about the money.

For their backers, it's all about maintaining the political power to continue favoring the rich. They've clearly shown that they'll do whatever they have to do, work with whomever they have to work with, push whatever disgusting stuff they have to push on the ignorant, the hateful, the gullible - as long as they can keep getting tax cuts and corporate subsidies.